Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury will close its doors at the end of this school year just shy of its 100th anniversary. For one member of the Hearts swim team, that means the end of a 63-year chapter.
Pierre "Butch" Savage swam for Sacred Heart as a student from 1954 to 1958. His four-year career as an athlete led to decades as a coach. He started at Sacred Heart in 1996, but Savage has coached kids around Waterbury for much longer than that.
“About four or five years ago, we hold our league championships here with all 11 teams, 10 out of the 11 coaches learned how to swim from him,” said Shea Moriarty, the current Sacred Heart boys swim coach.
Savage said he’s “melancholy” about the closing. He hoped his great-granddaughter, who is in elementary school now, would get to graduate from the school too. Even though that won’t happen, he’s choosing positivity over sadness.
“I'm going to enjoy this here as much as I possibly can and then that's it,” said Savage. “At 80 years old, I don't know how many more years I’ll have to feel sad.”
His athletes are looking on the bright side too. The Hearts are hoping to leave their mark as the final class of the 14-time state champion program.
“To be the last team, it is something special to think about,” said senior Connor Hennebery. “I wish there were going to be more teams, but I mean we were one of the best swim teams Connecticut’s ever seen.”
His classmate, Jesse Swartout, said he hopes to set as many records as possible. But when junior Nathan Stellmach heard the news, he was thinking something else: not again.
For Stellmach, this is his first year at Sacred Heart. His last school closed too.
“My initial reaction was just shock and then, of course, came the anger at times, the disappointment, but I really felt too for everybody else because I know what it’s like to go through this,” said Stellmach. “So the fact that others have to go through it as well, it hurt me, that hurt me as well.”